Dr. Tupayachi is one of only two oncologists in the Cuzco area. He lives with his pregnant wife and 6-year-old daughter in a home that co-serves as a center for chemotherapy treatment, of which he is the sole funder. The center is named after the Patron Saint of Health.
Local Cuzco resident, Marina Sifuentes Ramirez, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30, an exceptionally young age for detection to occur in Peru. She underwent a radical mastectomy and has been cancer-free for 29 years. When speaking about her experience to the Above + Beyond group, which includes several breast cancer survivors, she shared this advice: “Don’t ask God ‘why?’ when it comes to cancer. Ask, ‘What can I do with this situation?’”
Dr. Leah Dietrich is not only a three-year breast cancer survivor, she is also a medical oncologist who specializes in breast cancer treatment. She shared the similarities of her experience with the women in the audience, making the point that cancer survivors share things in common no matter what country they’re from. “The hardest moment I experienced during my treatment was when my daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Mommy, are you going to die?’” she said, fighting back tears.
Peruvian breast cancer survivors, who refer to one another as sisters, paid tribute to loved ones by designing prayer flags of their own, which the Above + Beyond team with trek with along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Dr. Deming and the Above + Beyond Cancer family handed out T-shirts along with a monetary contribution at the local Cuzco hospital to be used how the cancer center sees fit.
Oncologists Dr. Palomino of Peru and Dr. Deming of the U.S. exchange a hug. In spite of living in different parts of the world in countries with different means, they bonded in their similar mission of easing the burden of cancer around the globe.
In Cuzco, there is a 3-month waiting list to receive chemotherapy, and for radiation treatment, one must make the minimum 15-hour drive to the capital city of Lima, where there is a 6-month waiting period.
Cuzco doctors, hospital workers and community members shared a lot with the Above + Beyond Cancer group during their afternoon visit, including information on the most common cases of cancer within the country, which are cervix and stomach. the health benefits of local foods like the aguaymanto (Peruvian ground cherry), and also several hugs, handshakes and laughs. The groups made a promise to keep contact as they went their separate ways.